A few days ago, Arsenal Football Club released a statement regarding a measure that has had to have been taken after the financial implications of the coronavirus were taken into consideration. It was announced that 55 staff members were to be made redundant. Among these staff members were a number of prominent club scouts and employees within the administrative team. A rather sombre day for everyone involved with Arsenal.
On the back of this statement, The Athletic reported this morning that those within the Arsenal squad are slightly bemused by this announcement. It’s 3 and a half months since an agreement was reached which involved the first team squad taking a 12.5% pay cut. Arsenal remain the only top flight club to have taken an official pay cut. Why was this cut taken? To protect jobs. Not to finance incoming transfers.
Within the statement regarding the job cuts, it was proclaimed that the proposed redundancies are to ensure Arsenal have “the resources to return to competing effectively at the top of the game here [England] and in Europe.” Essentially, so Arsenal have enough money to compete in this Summer’s transfer market. To put it simply, the board have gone against the agreement they made with the players concerning pay cuts. Thus, a huge onus has been placed on Arsenal’s recruitment team to perform effectively in this Summer’s transfer market.
Rather ironically, on a day when Arsenal indirectly announced they were short of money, they were also linked with some pretty major transfers. The reportedly imminent free agent signing of Willian, with the Brazilian set to earn £100,000+ a week alongside a hefty signing bonus, the one being talked about most prominently in British media currently.
Then, his compatriots Gabriel Magalhaes and Philippe Coutinho are also said to be edging closer towards moves to the Emirates. There is also of course the ongoing saga regarding a potential €50 million for Thomas Partey. A lot of money set to be spent by a club which initially introduced a wage cut a few months ago and are now proposing redundancies. A club who are insinuating they are not financially secure.
The players mentioned above are who the club are thought to believe will take Arsenal to the next level quickly. These additions to a relatively mediocre squad will need to hit the ground running and propel Arsenal towards Champions League qualification. There is no if or but about it. If these signings do not deliver, Arsenal could be left with some serious financial troubles.
But it seems like Mikel Arteta wants us to show ambition, as evidenced by his comments to the media:
“If you are not in the Champions League and you say ‘OK, I don’t invest because I don’t have the financial ability to do it, but the other clubs invest, then the gap becomes bigger. If I do want to invest and risk, and then I don’t reach it, what happens? So at some stage you have to make a decision, whether I want to aim to make that gap closer and go for it, or I stay where I am.”
If there is no significant on-pitch improvement next year, the board will be feeling the heat. They’ve gambled hugely by enforcing pay cuts and redundancies. The backlash will be huge if this risk taking strategy backfires. To be frank, another season of poor performance could leave the whole club in disarray.
However, the board can take comfort in what was a beautiful end to a chaotic season. An FA Cup win has left Arsenal fans optimistic and rightfully so. European football should allow us to attract better talent and it’s clear that we have a wonderfully progressive coach in Mikel Arteta who has the potential to be a truly fantastic manager. Next season could either be the making or the breaking of the Spaniard’s long-term project.
Josh Kroenke’s statement last Summer that Arsenal have a “Europa League squad with a Champions League wage bill” has not changed. Arsenal are in an incredibly vulnerable position as they are. If the proposed hefty spending comes back to bite them, they only have themselves to blame. It’ll be all or nothing for Mikel Arteta’s side next season.